Spring will soon be here.
One sure sign are the indoor plants reacting to longer days by putting out new growth.
During the time between dormancy and active growth, care must be taken with water and nutrients.
When plants are actively growing, they will use more water than they did during the winter months but not as much as during the summer.
Always check to make sure the soil is dry below the surface before watering.
The best method is to pour water into the container until it runs out of the bottom of the pot.
When the pot is finished draining, empty the saucer of excess water.
Providing enough moisture for the water to flow through the soil distributes the moisture evenly in the soil, encouraging more roots to form throughout the pot.
The flow of water will also flush out excess amounts of salts and fertilizers that can built up in the soil.
Plants that need to be watered more than once a week often need to be repotted.
To be on the safe side, remove the pot and look at the rootball.
Plants need to be repotted when their rootball is a mass of roots that wind around the inside of the pot and are often poking through the drainage holes.
When repotting, choose a pot one size larger than the one the plant is already in.
Place some soil on the bottom of the new pot before removing the old pot.
Break apart the root mass to encourage the roots to spread out into the larger pot.
When there are too many roots, remove some of the thicker mature ones that are circling the pot.
Take care to leave as many of the fine roots in place as possible as these ones absorb most of the moisture and nutrients.
Place the rootball in the new pot and add as much soil as needed.
Water and add more soil until it is about an inch (two cm) below the rim of the pot.
Having space at the top of the pot makes watering plants easier.
Potting mixtures contain little if any soil.
Expect to find finely chopped peat moss with a little vermiculite or perlite mixed in.
Peat moss does not contain nutrients, which mean that to have lush plants it is essential to fertilize regularly unless slow release fertilizer has been added to the mixture.
Houseplant fertilizer comes in a number of forms: powder, granules, tablet/spike or in a liquid.
Add the powder to the watering can and stir until it the fertilizer is completely dissolved.
Using warmer water will help the fertilizer to dissolve faster.
Follow the instructions on the package as it is easy to put too much powder fertilizer into the watering can.
Granules, spikes and tablets are placed in the soil and release a small amount of fertilizer each time they come in contact with moisture, which causes them to dissolve.
If the soil is not moist enough to dissolve the fertilizer, the plant will be without nutrients.
Liquid fertilizer can be concentrated or premixed.
Never apply concentrated fertilizer. Always dilute it following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Premixed liquid fertilizer is bulky but easy to use as it doesn’t need to be mixed before it is applied.
Plants that are given too much fertilizer will be damaged, which can range from burned edges of leaves to dead plants.
A little time spent caring for the houseplants will help produce a better plant.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.